Defending the indefensible

NOVEMBER 5, 2008 - Football : Wayne Rooney of ...

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“It was indefensible really. We were winning 2-1, only needed a draw to qualify and Wayne has let the team, the manager and country down,”said England captain John Terry, immediately after the 2-2 draw with Montenegro in Podgorica, in which Wayne Rooney’s petulance earned him a red card in the 74th minute.
…or at least that is what he should have said.
But instead we go this spineless assessment from JT:
“I hope Wayne doesn’t get too much stick. What happened was unfortunate but it was one of those things. It means that he misses one or two games when we get there but it’s important to realise that, without him, we wouldn’t be in this position.
“He’s been absolutely magnificent for England and I hope people don’t criticise him too much. The important thing is we got the right result and we’re through.”
Oh John, you are wrong on so many levels.First of all, how exactly was the red card brandished by Wolfgang Stark unfortunate? Rooney deliberately kicked out at his opponent Miodrag Dzudovic with absolutely no provocation from the Montenegrin, when his team were still leading 2-1 and 20-odd minutes away from a certain place in the finals.

Secondly, is there anyone out there who seriously thinks England would have failed to qualify from a group containing mediocre Switzerland, Montenegro and Wales sides and an atrocious Bulgaria one without Mr Short Fuse leading the line?

And the claim that Rooney has been “magnificent for England” would make even the most fervent revisionist historian blush.

Patchy

Though it is undoubted that on his day Rooney is one of England’s best players, and certainly one of the most naturally gifted, his record for the national side is patchy at best.

Until his injury in Euro 2004, Rooney was undoubtedly one of the stars of the tournament, and tore the French, Swiss and Croatian defences to shreds that summer with his fearless forward play.

But since those heady days, Rooney has been something of a curse for England in tournaments. In 2006, he was unfit, unproductive and petulant once more, red carded for the first time in an England shirt in the quarter final against Portugal, as the Three Lions limped out of yet another tournament (and a very open one with no truly outstanding side) on penalties. England of course failed to reach the 2008 Euro finals with the Manchester United frontman scoring just two goals in the most dismal and depressing of qualifying campaigns.

And of course, there was last summer. The debacle of South Africa. A highly favourable group and route to the semi finals- should they have topped the group- squandered pathetically by Capello and his hapless squad. Rooney had arguably the biggest stinker of a tournament out of any player in the finals, taking into consideration his perceived quality, reputation and the excellent goal scoring season he had had in the Premier League and a highly impressive World Cup qualifying campaign.

There is no doubt he was not fully fit and that he may have been concerned with off the field allegations soon to break worldwide (his own fault) but his performances were poor and the contempt he showed to the travelling England fans was the cherry on top of a terrible campaign.

And now, before the Euro 2012 finals are anywhere near to beginning, and the 16 finalists haven’t even been confirmed or the groups drawn, Rooney has already negatively affected England’s tournament.

So, a quick waltz through Rooney’s history in a England shirt does not hold up kindly to Terry’s claims that “he has been magnificent” for the national side. That is not to say he hasn’t had inspired games or patches, or that other players (bar maybe Ashley Cole and pre-injury Rio Ferdinand) have been consistently brilliant either.

But back to the original point about fellow players defending his actions in Montenegro. These days in football there seems to be an unwritten rule between players- and many managers- that you cannot criticise one of your own to the media or in public too harshly. You seem to have to ‘protect’ your player from criticism, not to give them the kick up the backside they more often than not deserve.

This is one of the most nauseating things in modern football, and I suggest that this ‘protecting’ doesn’t always have the desired effect. In fact it often reinforces the mollycoddled, prima donnas that we see in the Premier League and International football almost every week.

But in 1998, then England manager Glenn Hoddle, though pleading with the media not to destroy David Beckham, admitted that the midfielder had let down the country and team. In public! The public criticism from Hoddle reportedly hurt Beckham, and it has been written about plenty how he responded and eventually became England’s captain and talisman for a good period. Not to forget winning the Champions League the season the year after the 1998 World Cup.

On a managerial level, the late great Brian Clough was left humiliated by a very public snub from Leeds boss Don Revie. Instead of sulking, Clough duly used the snub from Revie as a motivation to better the achievements of his arch-rival’s successful but ugly Leeds teams of the early 1970s. Two league titles with unfashionable Derby County and two European Cups and a Division one trophy with Nottingham Forest suggests he did so with aplomb.

You see, a public dressing down, snub or kick up the backside is not always a bad thing. It might actually be a blessing in disguise, a helping hand. And if players and managers could be honest about disciplinary incidents more often than they are to the media, perhaps there is a chance that the sinning player might show some strength of character, work harder to win back their manager, fans and teammates trust and learn from the experience.

Worth a try, isn’t it?

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2 Comments on “Defending the indefensible

  1. First and Last time reader. Post your names and pedigree. I subscribe to that theory ‘those that can, do, and those that can’t teach–in your case, preach’. Ex-players or Managers only, thank-you!

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